The Dress That Nearly Killed Me
I’ve been writing on this blog for so long I can’t remember what I’ve shared and what I haven’t. Have I shared how much of a fan of Project Runway I am? I probably have. I’m a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fan. It’s my favorite reality show EVER and every time it’s on I am glued to it, commenting my opinions about every piece of clothing that is made. I don’t care about any drama. I’m there for the creativity. Every time it’s on I say, I wish I was on that show too. I really do.
I may have missed my calling when I didn’t go to fashion design school and chose to study journalism at a state school instead. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had chosen that path. Did I tell you how I almost went to FIDM? Yep. I almost did. But I didn’t. At the last minute, I changed my mind because I didn’t think I was good enough to get a job and I was worried I’d end up in retail working at Clothestime for the rest of my life with a huge debt.
So when Bug showed me this picture I thought in my tiny I-think-I-could-be-a-fashion-designer head, “I can do that! We just create a bodice, overlay some lace, sew some ribbons on top to look like boning, add a tulle skirt and some ribbons for straps, and tah-dah, DESIGNER DRESS!”
What I did not know at the time of looking at the above photo is that THAT designer dress cost $4,900 and probably for a good reason. I cannot make that dress. It’s not as easy as it looks. I am full of crap and I need to be taken down a notch or two.
(I need to insert here that the dress that Joon is wearing on the right is my dress that we decided to Frankenstein into a skirt for this dress. It was a mistake but I’ll get to that later.)
And so I was taken down a notch or two.
First I created a bodice out of the only off-white fabric I had on hand: wool felt. It wasn’t a bad choice. It draped nicely on Bug’s body and held its form but it wasn’t the best for fitting because it does have some give and it can stretch out. I must have draped and pinned and sewed and ripped and repinned and re-sewed that wool felt a million times. Making a bodice with a shelf to hold very small a-cup boobs was much more difficult than I realized. I did it wrong about four thousand times.
Maybe now would be a good time to admit I don’t really know how to sew properly. I know how to use my sewing machine and I do make things from time to time but I’m not actually a seamstress with a working knowledge of how to construct clothing. I tinker. I alter already-made clothes and I can whip together a pillow or even a stuffed owl but I have never really followed a pattern successfully or really made anything fitted outside of a couch cover that was admittedly pretty wonky.
After the four-thousand ill-fated attempts at the bodice, I decided to ask my mom for help. I also came down with a cold during this time and developed a five-alarm sinus infection. But nothing could stop me from finishing this dress.
Not even a teenager who has self-diagnosed herself with misophonia could stop me from finishing but believe me she almost did. She just about broke me with this project.
Let’s talk about misophonia. It’s an uncontrollable anger over sounds. Yes, sounds. Bug can go from perfectly pleasant to break-down-on-the-floor weeping over the sounds of someone eating or putting the dishes away too loudly. It happens when she’s hungry or having PMS. She’s impossible. Everything sets her off and asking her to stand still to be fitted in a dress is like asking a rabid squirrel to sit nicely and have a tea party. It’s crazy-making.
Bug tries really hard to control her anger but she doesn’t always win. During PMS week she is a wreck. And the thing with these mental illnesses is that you can’t really accommodate them. The more I accommodate, the worse she gets until she’ll be living like a hermit peeing in a jar. I say this because I have experience with this. Her dad has it.
It was probably one of the reasons why our marriage didn’t work. It’s very hard to live with someone who is so sensitive to sound they are constantly in a bad mood. I never really understood Toby and how angry he would get until I had a daughter develop the same irrational sensitivities.
The difference is that Bug knows this about her dad. She’s seen misophonia in action all her life. She might have even learned it this way. She’s had her feelings hurt from her dad’s sudden outbursts many many times so she knows not to act this way. It’s just a lot harder to do when it’s happening than you realize. Bug tries so hard to stay calm and often retreats to her room in tears instead of venting her anger. Her friends don’t understand her. Her own family doesn’t understand her. I barely understand her and we are the closest. She tells me everything and my heart breaks for her when she tries to explain the hell that she is in because sounds set her off.
We are on a three-month waiting list to speak to a child psychologist about this and we probably will have a whole toolbox of coping mechanisms soon but presently we are just bumbling through.
Thankfully with this mental illness also comes lots of mental brilliance. Bug is incredibly talented and artistic as you already know. She has a lot of creative outlets for her frustrations and she finds joy in many many things. It’s just the down days that are hard.
Unfortunately, life does not schedule around down days. Sometimes you have to sew dresses when you are suffering from PMS, misophonia, AND a sinus infection that feels like a tent stake is being hammered through your eye socket and into your teeth.
Eventually, it came together. Meanwhile, Bug dyed her converse dark burgundy to go with. Color will always keep Bug happy. She even created a tiktok video about it that kinda-sorta went viral.
Sadly her converse faded to pink but I think they still looked cute. I love that wearing heels is no longer in fashion. Good riddance to sore feet and dancing barefoot, I say. Tennis shoes are way better for dancing.
Also, sadly, the dress didn’t live up to either of our standards. The skirt was too heavy-looking for the delicate top. I thought I was going to add more heavy black lace to the chest to create that milkmaid look but Bug was over it and not going to sit for another fitting. We fudged the waistband by adding a lace strip but it just didn’t quite hit the mark. The bottom was way too chunky for the top. I should have remade the skirt in tulle and skipped re-using my old dress but at this point, it was too late. We had no more days to sew.
I should also note that a teenager who doesn’t like to stand up straight doesn’t really help a dress look its best but I think she was slouching because she didn’t feel confident in the dress and I get that.
I understand this because my mom used to make me dresses when I was a teenager and many of them didn’t turn out. We would pick out a pattern together and I’d pick the fabric. Invariably I’d pick the wrong kind of fabric and the dress that looked so graceful and flattering on the model on the pattern envelope would look stiff and thick and awkward on me. Then my mom’s feelings would be hurt when I shoved the dress to the back of my closet and refused to wear it. So much love and time is invested in handmade clothing and so many times those investments are not returned. It’s hard.
So I forgive Bug for not standing up straight. I get it. I’m just surprised and flattered she actually wore it to the dance.
In certain angles it is a very pretty dress. It’s definitely something I am proud of. I tried to do something really hard with limited experience and looks okay. It’s not great. I wish I could re-make it with a new princess style skirt and maybe I will someday.
I’m so proud that she wore it. She even told her friends that she made it, even though she didn’t actually sew a stitch. But if you count all the hours of sitting around in pokey-pins and all the decisions that she yayed or nayed, she was very much a part of it’s construction. It was a joint effort.
She did end up wearing her boyfriend’s jacket over it but I don’t care. She wore it. We made it together.
And she had a good time.
Now I just need to find some sewing classes to attend because I don’t think this fashion designing bug is going away anytime soon. It didn’t kill me.